I grew up playing sports. From the soccer field, to track and cross country, being part of a team and learning how to be an active player in the success of team is something I am now reflect on as I parent my children. A good coach makes all the difference in whether a teammate feels valued, supported and challenged to be the best participant they can, and I believe so much of that can be used in parenting.
I used to joke that having two kids, is like being a referee. You are there to manage the playing field (playroom) and when a disagreement (tantrum) breaks out, the referee is there to handle it. Although a referee plays an important part is making sure the playing field is fair, they play no part in the actual development of the player. They expect everyone to play the perfect game and wait for the moment they can declare a mess up. As I took time to reflect on what makes a good coach, I have decided to hone in on how I can implement “coach parenting” vs. “referee parenting” for my kids.
- A good coach listens to their players and understands how to encourage each player individually: As a mom we are given one of the greatest responsibilities to learn and to listen to our children. No one else can do it for us, not a teacher, not a grandparent, not a babysitter. It is up to us to be their greatest support and greatest listener. It is also up to us to learn how each child needs to be understood and heard. As a mom of two (a girl and a boy) I fully understand the difference in sibling personalities but even more so the difference in gender characteristics. I would be doing my son a disservice if I squelched is physical need to smash, stomp and destroy everything in his path, just because his sister was not that way. Just like I would hate to force my daughter to be more outgoing and gregarious like her brother, when that is just not who she is. I have also learned that even though my son is loud and gregarious, he is very emotional and sensitive and needs to feel emotional support when an argument breaks out. Unlike Millie, who is less emotional and likes to understand the rules and know where her place is. Each child is unique and perfect in their own way, and its up to us as their coach to find the characteristics, learn them and encourage them in who they are!
- A good coach challenges the player to do their best. Someday's we just want to give up and allow our kids to do whatever they want and not be held accountable (trust me, been there!) But we are only hindering our children if we choose to be inconsistent and disengaged in our parenting. It is our job to challenge them to be the best they can be. Challenge them to vocalize what they need, challenge them to share well and speak kindness or try something a different way. Challenge them to ride a bike with no training wheels or go down the slide without mom. If we allow ourselves to be a parent who builds up, challenges and strengthens our children, while they are still under our roof, hopefully this will give them the confidence they need to take on real life challenges down the road.
- A good coach offers lots of opportunities to train the players for the upcoming game. I try my hardest to be prepared for situations, but gosh its always when the disagreements breakout that I realize how behind I am on helping Millie and Amos feel prepared for a conflict. The kids and I have started talking about past conflicts and what we would choose to do different in the future. This simply means talking about it before it happens (aka training players for the game!) We talk about conflict it in the car, at the dinner table, while we are playing, while we are on a walk, literally all the time. Taking time to talk through situations that could occur, or that have occurred, allows us to all grow and feel prepared for conflict ahead. Plus it gives us as parents the opportunity to apologize for reacting harshly or raising our voice when it wasn’t necessary. Side note: speaking from experience, saying sorry to our kids is humbling but extremely important part of being a good role model and a loving parent. If they can see and understand that mom and dad make mistakes and apologize, that it will only teach them to do the same!
- A good coach teaches players to appreciate what everyone can contribute to the team. This is a hard lesson to learn but an important one…our kids must learn that the world does not revolve around them. Obviously, this is an incredibly hard lesson to learn (even for adults) but its important to help our kids see outside themselves and begin to appreciate the differences they have with their siblings. Millie loves to play knowing that everyone has a role and that there are rules, whereas with Amos he likes to bounce around and do his own thing. You can only imagine that these playing styles can create some major conflict. To help Millie and Amos appreciate one another for their differences, I must teach them the importance of validating one another in the way they choose to play or color or whatever. This has been a major game changer and has helped prevent frustration while the kiddos are playing and has especially helped Millie be more patient with her brother while they play.
- A good coach fosters and environment of love, support, and encouragement. Our kids will practice what they see. If we are speaking words of encouragement, love and support to our spouse and to our kids, hopefully they will begin to emulate those same traits. If we want our kids to be a supportive sibling and an encouraging friend, we must make sure we foster that environment in our home. In our family this looks like celebrating Millie when she learns to read another word and making sure Amos praises her win with us. This could also be praising Amos for being good listener and making sure Millie is affirming him in his positive behavior too. Another way we choose foster a home full of love and support is by saying “I love you” and “I’m sorry” all throughout the day. I think these simple phrases are some of the most meaningful and impactful words we can share with our family. The best part about all of this is that I have begun to hear Millie and Amos supporting one another when the other have a victory and they say I love you to one another daily.
As parents it is our job to be to be our kid's greatest cheerleader and most supportive coach. To see our kids for who they are and their unique gifts and talents they were created with. It is our duty to challenge them in a loving way to be better and to try harder. It is our job to offers lots of opportunities to talk about how we can be prepared for the hardships ahead. And last and most important it is our job as their coach and greatest cheerleader to be a safe place of love, support and encouragement.
If you are struggling with sibling rivalry and feeling like all you are doing is playing referee, I challenge you to take on the posture of a coach in your parenting. I think this shift in your perspective will not only help you coach your kids, but hopefully help you feel more prepared when conflict arises.
Abby is an awesome Mom and an amazing team member of Baja Baby. She lives in Colorado with her husband Alex, her beautiful children Amelia Grace, Amos Lee and Maple the dog. You can find Abby on Instagram by clicking here.
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